BIRDATHON and the OK Big Day

A Plan for a 2020 BIRDATHON

With our 2020 Big Day for BIRDATHON officially COVID-canceled, your PCAS Board has been busy trying to develop a workable replacement. Recall that donations and sponsorship of birding teams for the Big Day is our primary source of funding for operations throughout the year, including our annual research awards. We’ve decided to use the Global Big Day on Saturday May 9th as a substitute for the fun we would have had on our previously scheduled big day, and as an excuse to still raise some money!

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How will it work? Well, birders gonna bird, so we might as well feature them here, and YOU can sponsor one or more (or all of them!) with either a flat or a per-bird donation. (A per-bird pledge works like this: if you sponsor a birder at $0.50/bird and they find 50 species, then that pledge works out to a donation of $25.00. (Note: We’ll take anything. No donation is too small, or too large!)

Donations are super-easy – and tax-deductible.  Just visit the Donations page and follow the instructions. Be sure to click the Special Instructions dialog box to indicate who you’re sponsoring.

We’ll feature their photos and checklists here (so you know how much to donate if you make a per-bird pledge) and to help all of us learn more about and celebrate the birds of Payne County. BIRDERS, if you’d like to help out, simply recruit some of your friends and family to sponsor you, and send them to our Donations page. Then go birding on the Global Big Day, enter your checklists to eBird, and forward them (plus your favorite cool photos from the day) to I’ll post them here.

Prizes – in the form of bragging rights and my eternal admiration – will be awarded in the following categories:

  1. most money raised on your behalf

  2. highest species total on the day

  3. most “life” birds seen on that day (great category for beginning birders!)

  4. best photo


Let’s. Do. This.


The Payne County Audubon Society generally relies on ONE fundraising event each year: BIRDATHON! Our ability to provide thoughtful programming and sponsor research, education, and conservation in our community stems directly from the support we receive during BIRDATHON.  Please give generously, and rest assured that your contributions will come right back to the community.

BIRDATHON works like any other sponsored endurance event: Volunteer birders spend a set amount of time in the field trying to find as many different species of birds as possible.  Sponsors pledge a monetary donation to reward the effort either as a flat sum or, for added incentive to excel, on a per species basis.  For example, if a birder finds 100 species and a sponsor has pledged $1.00 per species, then the sponsor will make a $100.00 donation to the PCAS. The birder must work very hard to maximize each pledge by finding many species, the sponsor will be pleased to see the results of that hard work, and the PCAS can continue the great work we do in central Oklahoma.

Here at the PCAS, we do BIRDATHON the fundraiser as a Big Day competition, usually in late April. The PCAS OK Big Day is a classic birding big day competition in which teams compete head-to-head to find the most species of birds in a 24-hour period: 6:00pm–6:00 pm, culminating in a tally rally to declare the winners. Teams compete in several categories including overall high count (open to anyone in Oklahoma with teams phoning in their results by 6:00 pm), Payne County high count for people who limit their wanderings to within our home county, and non-motorized for birders who travel only by bicycle, on foot, or on horseback.

Of course, our greatest admiration goes to the team that raises the most money in pledges!


Read about some other big day competitions:

The Birding Cup, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

World Series of Birding

Great Texas Birding Classic

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – the Texas Big Day Team

2020 OK BIRDATHON Big Day – Rules and Details

We were, of course, saddened to have to cancel the 2020 BIRDATHON to help us maintain social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But we will be back!

2021 OK BIRDATHON Big Day – Rules and Details

We will hold our OK Big Day competition from… TBA in 2021

The OK Big Day will begin at 6:00 pm on Friday _____ and last until 6:00 pm on Saturday _____: a real 24-hour count! Teams of birders will scour fields and forests and everything in between to find as many species as possible before converging on Boomer Lake (west side; north pavilion) for the awards ceremony at 6:00 pm on the ______.

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Above all, you don’t need to be an expert birder to compete. You just have to want to get out, have fun, and see some birds while raising money for a great cause!

OK Big Day awards:

  • 1st place for most species encountered overall, anywhere in the state
  • 1st place for those who just stay in Payne County
  • 1st place for those who opt to walk or bicycle only


Specific Instructions and Rules of the Game:

  • Beginning as early as 6:00 pm on the _____, teams can bird anywhere they like, finding as many species as possible, until 6:00 pm on the _____. By 6:00 pm, all teams converge on a central location* for the “tally-rally” and awards party. (*We’ll use a Boomer Lake pavilion if the weather looks good; stay tuned for final details on the Tally Rally location; out-of-town teams can just report their totals via telephone [405-338-8764], email, or simply post results to the PCAS Facebook group.)
  • teams must register with Tim O’Connell (preferably by email:; 405-338-8764) by _________.
  • teams can have a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 5 members.
  • at least 50% of the team members must identify each species counted, e.g., both members on a team of 2; 2/3 on a team of 3; 3/4 of 4; 3/5 of 5.
  • team members cannot split up to cover more ground; as a general guide, members should never be more than shouting distance away from each other.
  • birds can be identified by sight or sound.    *no artificial devices (electronic or otherwise) can be used to lure birds in.
  • only American Birding Association (ABA) “countable” North American species can be included, e.g., no “domestic chickens”.
  • team members must follow the ABA Code of Ethics:


To Prepare for the OK Big Day

The most important thing to do to prepare to compete in the OK Big Day is to form a team and start collecting pledges now. Most donors will be happy to pledge an amount per species. For example, if your team finds 100 species of birds, a 10-cent pledge works out to a $10 donation. Some donors will pledge a flat amount, regardless of how many species your team finds.

Donations are super-easy – and tax-deductible!  Just visit the Donations page here and follow the instructions.  Be sure to tell your sponsors that for you to get the credit for their donation, they will need to enter that information in the Special Instructions dialog box.

For teams that gather no pledges, we suggest a donation from the team of $10/team member. Above all, BIRDATHON is a fundraiser, and the only one we hold each year.


Registered Teams for the 2021 Big Day competition (Let’s hear your best bird puns!):




Scroll down for BIRDATHON Big Day summaries, and watch this space for news of our next Big Day in 2022!


2019 OK Big DayResults!

Thanks to the following folks who registered the following teams to compete in the 2019 Big Day for BIRDATHON:

  1. Here for the Checklists: Cameron Sherbon, Lane Navarro, Madeleine Griffin, and 2 pups [40 species]
  2. No Egrets: Eric Duell, Justin Agan, Samantha Cady, and Dave Londe [104 species]
  3. Cowunitbird: Jim Cowley and Les Imboden
  4. Tainted Bunting: Jared Elmore, Scott Loss, Georgia Riggs, Nic McMillan, and Tim O’Connell [130 species]
  5. Nature’s Vein Supreme Ruler: Jess Torres [87 species]
  6. Lords of the Wings: Tori Depuy, Logan Dickinson, Lauren Montalbano, and James Kowaleski [75 species]
  7. Chickathree: Amanda Boyle, Lindsey Chaffin, and Craig Davis (McCurtain County) [66 species]
  8. Well, This is Hawkward: Tiana Sanders, Breanne Otto, and Christopher Perez (McCurtain County)
  9. Cheep Dates: Erin Caldwell, Denise Hall, Christine Lord, and Kayleigh Locke (McCurtain County)

My records suggest that we had 29 volunteers birding on 9 teams – thanks to all participants.

***Now you can be the hero: Pick your favorite team from the list above and DONATE today! BIRDATHON is our ONE fundraising campaign each year and 100% of this year’s proceeds will go to support the contruction of a large bird flight cage at Nature’s Vein Wildlife Rescue and Education. ***


Under the outstanding leadership of Scott Loss, team Tainted Bunting had the highest total, with 130 species! That’s still shy of the unofficial record – Booby Patrol’s 134 in 2016 – but it’s pretty darn good to turn up 130 species in Payne County during the last weekend in April.  Here’s the total list:


June 2019 – Special Announcement

You did it! Thanks to your hard work in seeking donations, the 2019 Big Day raised a bit over $2000 (!) toward our campaign to help raise funds to build a large bird flight cage at Nature’s Vein Wildlife Rescue and Education in Perkins, OK. We are delighted to announce that the Governing Board of the Payne County Audubon Society voted on 29 May 2019 to contribute that $2000 plus the remaining $3000 for a total $5000 grant to Nature’s Vein that will cover the flight cage expenses in full!

Thanks to your efforts, our community will soon take a great leap forward in providing quality rehabilitative care for larger birds!

Nature’s Vein is a 501c(3) non-profit center for wildlife rehabilitation and education, owned and operated by Jessica Torres. Jessica holds multiple permits for rehabilitation of wildlife, but she needs to build a flight cage (example) to qualify for additional permits to provide care for larger birds, several of which are brought to her for medical care each year. Your support can help some of those birds get nursed back to health and released back to the wild.

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So far in 2019, the PCAS has provided $8000 in grants and scholarships. When folks ask what we do, remember stuff like this!



Results from the 2016 OK Big Day!

Registered Teams for 2016

Heavy Metal-larks: Sam Cady, Cindy Park, Caitlin Laughlin, Eric Duell, and Tim O’Connell

Booby Patrol: Roy Cruz, Chris Williams, and Josh Engelbert

Little Rufous Corvette: Medhavi Ambadar, Madeleine Naylor, Ashley Love, Kaati Schreier, and Matt Waselik.

The Pterodactyls: Leslie Miller and Helen Jordan

Losscaws: Scott and Sara Loss

Special Guest Stars – Cameron Smithee & fiance’, reporting from Cimarron County!


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Roy Cruz, Chris Williams, and Josh Engelbert celebrate Team Booby Patrol’s victory with 134 species on the day!

The OK Big Day was held Saturday, April 30, 2016. It was cool, cloudy, and windy in the morning, and most jackets weren’t shed until 4:00 pm. Recent rains have filled rivers and wetlands, leaving very little shorebird habitat. Our mild winter and spring left us little in the way of waterfowl either. Nonetheless, our teams did well. Special congratulations go to Team Booby Patrol who won the competition outright with 134 species!  This just might be a new record for Payne County!

Combining Booby Patrol’s list with those of other teams, we collectively encountered and amazing 151 species in Payne County!  This makes 150 do-able for a single team in the future  . . .

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Mallard (Domestic type)
  5. Gadwall
  6. Blue-winged Teal
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Redhead
  9. Ring-necked Duck
  10. Ruddy Duck
  11. Wild Turkey
  12. Northern Bobwhite
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Eared Grebe
  15. Neotropic Cormorant
  16. Double-crested Cormorant
  17. American Bittern
  18. Great Blue Heron
  19. Great Egret
  20. Snowy Egret
  21. Cattle Egret
  22. Green Heron
  23. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  24. White-faced Ibis
  25. Black Vulture
  26. Turkey Vulture
  27. Osprey
  28. Mississippi Kite
  29. Bald Eagle
  30. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  31. Cooper’s Hawk
  32. Red-shouldered Hawk
  33. Broad-winged Hawk
  34. Swainson’s Hawk
  35. Red-tailed Hawk
  36. Sora
  37. American Coot
  38. Killdeer
  39. Spotted Sandpiper
  40. Upland Sandpiper
  41. Solitary Sandpiper
  42. Lesser Yellowlegs
  43. Baird’s Sandpiper
  44. Least Sandpiper
  45. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  46. Wilson’s Phalarope
  47. Franklin’s Gull
  48. Forster’s Tern
  49. Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
  50. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  51. Mourning Dove
  52. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  53. Greater Roadrunner
  54. Great Horned Owl
  55. Barred Owl
  56. Chuck-wills-widow
  57. Chimney Swift
  58. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  59. Belted Kingfisher
  60. Red-headed Woodpecker
  61. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  62. Downy Woodpecker
  63. Hairy Woodpecker
  64. Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
  65. Pileated Woodpecker
  66. American Kestrel
  67. Merlin
  68. Peregrine Falcon
  69. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  70. Least Flycatcher
  71. Eastern Phoebe
  72. Great Crested Flycatcher
  73. Western Kingbird
  74. Eastern Kingbird
  75. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  76. Loggerhead Shrike
  77. White-eyed Vireo
  78. Yellow-throated Vireo
  79. Blue-headed Vireo
  80. Bell’s Vireo
  81. Warbling Vireo (Eastern)
  82. Red-eyed Vireo
  83. Blue Jay
  84. American Crow
  85. Fish Crow
  86. Horned Lark
  87. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  88. Purple Martin
  89. Tree Swallow
  90. Bank Swallow
  91. Barn Swallow
  92. Cliff Swallow
  93. Carolina Chickadee
  94. Tufted Titmouse
  95. White-breasted Nuthatch
  96. House Wren
  97. Marsh Wren
  98. Sedge Wren
  99. Carolina Wren
  100. Bewick’s Wren
  101. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  102. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  103. Eastern Bluebird
  104. Swainson’s Thrush
  105. American Robin
  106. Gray Catbird
  107. Brown Thrasher
  108. Northern Mockingbird
  109. European Starling
  110. Cedar Waxwing
  111. Louisiana Waterthrush
  112. Black-and-white Warbler
  113. Prothonotary Warbler
  114. Orange-crowned Warbler
  115. Nashville Warbler
  116. Kentucky Warbler
  117. Common Yellowthroat
  118. Northern Parula
  119. Yellow Warbler
  120. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
  121. Blackpoll Warbler
  122. Yellow-throated Warbler
  123. Yellow-breasted Chat
  124. Grasshopper Sparrow
  125. Chipping Sparrow
  126. Field Sparrow
  127. Lark Sparrow
  128. White-crowned Sparrow
  129. White-throated Sparrow
  130. Harris’s Sparrow
  131. Savannah Sparrow
  132. Spotted Towhee
  133. Summer Tanager
  134. Northern Cardinal
  135. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  136. Indigo Bunting
  137. Lazuli Bunting
  138. Painted Bunting
  139. Dickcissel
  140. Bobolink
  141. Red-winged Blackbird
  142. Eastern Meadowlark
  143. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  144. Common Grackle
  145. Great-tailed Grackle
  146. Brown-headed Cowbird
  147. Orchard Oriole
  148. Baltimore Oriole
  149. House Finch
  150. Pine Siskin
  151. American Goldfinch
  152. House Sparrow


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Scott and Sara Loss cracked 100 species while shopping in Tulsa!
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The Heavy-Metalarks brought lots of attitude and had a great day with 121.
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Terrific showing from Little Rufous Corvette in their first big day!
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Roy Cruz, pretty excited about the sweet victory!

The big hero of the day, however, was Helen Jordan from the Pterodactyls.  Helen is rumored to have raised a whopping $1000 for the Payne County Audubon Society through her efforts in BIRDATHON.  Congratulations Helen, and thank you!

Now it’s your turn to be the hero:  If you haven’t already, please pop over to the DONATIONS page and reward these folks for their hard work in the field.  Every bit of your tax-deductible support is appreciated, and it goes a long way toward the PCAS’ ability to provide nature-related programming right here in our own community over the coming year. Our field trips, scholarships, lectures, etc. rely entirely on your support, and we’ll take it any time you want. If offering a donation for a particular team or team member, just follow the “Special Instructions” that show you how to do that.  Thanks!

Now, enjoy some more sights of the 2016 OK Big Day:


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Registered Teams for 2016

Heavy Metal-larks: Sam Cady, Cindy Park, Caitlin Laughlin, Eric Duell, and Tim O’Connell

Booby Patrol: Roy Cruz, Chris Williams, and Josh Engelbert

Little Rufous Corvette: Medhavi Ambadar, Madeleine Naylor, Ashley Love, Kaati Schreier, and Matt Waselik.

The Pterodactyls: Leslie Miller and Helen Jordan

Losscaws: Scott and Sara Loss

Special Guest Stars – Cameron Smithee & fiance’, reporting from Cimarron County!



2015 BIRDATHON Big Day Report, Payne County, OK.

From the gorgeous subtle beauty of the Milky Way before dawn to the warm long shadows of the setting sun at dusk, 14 teams enjoyed a glorious day in Payne County for the 2015 Big Day on Saturday, April 25th.  Congratulations to all the students, families, and pets(!) who competed. Congrats to Maycee Goza who won in the non-motorized category with 32 species, and to team Macawsome (Kelly Boyer, Eric Duell, Emily Sinnott, Talia Branham, and Lisa Elizondo) as the overall winners with an amazing 125 species on the day! The award for best team name went to the Inglorious Bustards (David O’Dell, Abby Randle, Zac Hemans, and Evan Flanagan). Needless to say, a fun time was had by all!


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Here is a list of the 107 species we found on team Steve.  We weren’t Macawsome, but we had a good day nonetheless:

Canada Goose
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Upland Sandpiper – flyover before the team was fully assembled so it didn’t make our official list.
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Wilson’s Snipe
Franklin’s Gull
Forster’s Tern
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker  – apparently nesting in the Lewis’ Woodpecker tree at Lake Carl Blackwell.
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike – Teal Ridge!
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush  – the pinnacle of avian evolution
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager – My first ever in Payne County, OK!  The bird flew into the Lewis’ Woodpecker tree at Lake Carl Blackwell, sang once, and flew right over our heads heading northwest.  We clearly saw the deep red underparts, relatively short black tail, and whitish underwings of an alternate-plumaged male.
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Bonus material – images from my chestboard cam:

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1335:042515:88F:CAMERA2 :2 1336:042515:90F:CAMERA2 :2 1336:042515:90F:CAMERA2 :2 1350:042515:97F:CAMERA2 :2 1357:042515:99F:CAMERA2 :2 1401:042515:99F:CAMERA2 :2

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